Friday, September 16, 2011

Still reading... Books #42 & #43

Yep, I've still been pretty darn busy. This week I did my first baby program at my new job, and I hosted one of my favorite picture book author/illustrators at my library--while wearing a pink tutu and hair bow, mind you. Both events went incredibly well.

But I've also been reading! I've been reading a whole lot, in fact. I've been reading so much that I'm rather behind in updating you all as to what I've been reading. So today I'm going to talk about two books I finished sometime last week, and then, once I finish this sweeping children's series (of which I finished book 5 last night), I'll talk to you about that. Sound good?

I love Maira Kalman. (The handler [har har] of the author of that sweeping series I mentioned loves Maira Kalman, too!) I loved her illustrations in Strunk and White's Elements of Style, I love having her picture books on display at the library, and I loved The Principles of Uncertainty when I read it a few years ago. Thus you should not be surprised that I loved her newest book, And the Pursuit of Happiness, which was created from her 2009 year-long blog on the NYT website all about topics in American civics. Does that sound boring? Because it's totally not. Each chapter is beautifully illustrated and includes just enough informative and wandering text to really capture some aspect of American history/government/political culture in a whimsical way. Think the crazy hats of founding fathers. Think brief mentions of the cafeteria food available at various sites of federal import. Think uplifting thoughts about what this country has done and can do--a necessary point of view in these times of political vitriol, if you ask me. I love that I can pick up this book, read a chapter, and just feel better about things in this country. I'd suggest it to folks who like art books, who like short, first-person reflections, and who like Kalman's previous projects.

I also just finished Catherine Reef's biography-ish book on Jane Austen, Jane Austen: A Life Revealed. While I new a lot of the biographical information about Austen and her family already, I did learn some interesting tidbits about some of the less frequently written-about "characters" from her life. I was disappointed by how many assumptions the author made about Austen's relationships and her personal life similarities to her works, however, and I was surprised that a good portion of the text was actually taken up by the author's own synopses of Austen's novels. Maybe it's just me, but if you want to know about Jane Austen's books, wouldn't it make more sense to read them? I did learn some new things, but I would have to conclude that this book is more of a Cliffs Notes version of Austen and her works than an in-depth, serious scholarly biography. Still, I might suggest it to readers who don't have time or inclination to delve into a more substantial biography or who just want brief synopses of the novels. It's still better than Wikipedia!

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